FICTION IAN'S VIKING FUNERAL DREAMS BY GABRIEL RICARD
Ian sat up, head screaming like a history of haunted house movies, confirmed that he was indeed inside a boat, and felt briefly pleased that his guess from a few minutes ago had turned out to be true. Waking up from a dream often meant a shaky transition into reality, which also meant having to accept that reality wasn’t what it was cracking up to be moments earlier. Sometimes, that was a shame.
He thought about this for a second, which ushered him towards realizing that he was inside a fucking boat. “And it’s on fire.” He said this to see how the words would feel in the open air. The hangover was immediate. A migraine was cramming an entire Black Flag concert into his skull, and the line to get into the broom closet venue was trailing around the block that made up his neck and spine.
He was pretty sure a small piece of vomit was stuck in his teeth. Saying again out loud that the boat was on fire gave him the energy he needed to quite possibly ruin his body by getting up. It wasn’t the most realistic plan of all time. The migraine didn’t need the strength of ten urban legend lumberjacks to knock him into what turned out to be shallow water.
A functional section of his brain told him this was probably the lake behind Michele’s grandparents’ rarely-used summer home. Swallowing too much water brought on some heaves, but his stomach had nothing to offer in the way of sacrifice.
Someone screamed what the fuck, and he realized after a moment that it was him.
That sounded like Campbell.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck.”
And that sounded like Anna.
“Is someone gonna help him?”
“Eh, he’s got it.”
That sounded like Dominique, probably lighting a cigarette as she spoke, for effect. He finally turned around to confirm all of those suspicions. Everyone else looked uncomfortable with the idea of expressing themselves. They had not foreseen this development. “What the fuck,” he continued spitting out drops of water, “What the fuck?” His Frankenstein Monster legs carried him the few feet he needed to travel to get to dry land. That was all they were going to do for him. “What the shit?”
“Well,” Casper started, “We thought you were dead.”
He remained on his knees. Everyone was just shy of arms reach, and no one made an effort to change that. The pieces of last night, of the entire weekend, were not only pieces of the smallest, most useless quality. They may as well have been travel videos from eons ago. “What does that even mean?”
“It was a Viking funeral,” Dominique replied, almost in the form of a question.
There was no reason why this had to qualify as a mystery. He thought about getting up, but the early morning oxygen was somehow cleaner, more medicinal, when it was closer to the ground. Maybe it was the light fog, or the way it kept him away from Dominique’s cigarette. “I don’t,” his gag reflex jerked the words away, and he looked up. “I don’t understand what that means.”
“You’re always saying how you want a Viking funeral.”
For the five years in which he had known him, Campbell had always liked to tell people outside of their social circle that he was the voice of reason for said social circle. “I have never, never, ever, never,” he coughed, “Ever said that.”
“You’ve been saying that for years,” Campbell retorted.
To be fair, it was possible. Their routine habits formed routine evenings, and those were numbering in the four-figure range at this point. “You set the boat on fire…” He realized he had not completely caught up with reality yet. Those words could have been used to describe the plot of a movie, and they would have sounded exactly the same.
Bill coughed, looking back at the house several times. “It seemed easier than calling the cops.”
“Why would you call the cops?” Good. Whole sentences.
“You drank half a bottle of Everclear,” Anna explained, in a tone that was trying to break the tension with understanding and low volumes.
“And we’re twenty miles from anything,” Casper reminded him, “Let alone a hospital.”
“Viking funeral just seemed like the easiest way to go,” Campbell said.
“It didn’t occur to you…” It was a perilous call to make, but his knees couldn’t take digging into the small rocks and twigs that made up the landscape. He shifted his body to put the balance of his universe on knee. He couldn’t choose between the various things they could have done instead. “What about a shower?” Anna of all people helped him finish the journey to becoming upright. She held onto him. “Doesn’t anybody,” he stopped to let heavy breathing do what it could, “Induce vomiting anymore?”
Dominique dropped and stomped out her cigarette. “We’re still kind of drunk,” she reasoned. “And well…”
“We kind of felt bad about your birthday last month.”
The last two or three minutes had been spent trying to create a memory of this latest reenactment of the first weekend they had ever gotten together, the one that had put them close to bragging rights with immortality. The half-clear images he could pull from this weekend needed to keep their shape for more than a minute, and also be capable of standing up to scrutiny. So far, nothing. He couldn’t even remember things like his birthday last month. Everything was severe and violent enough to feel like it was all happening for the very first time. Thirteen years old, hanging out with that kid, what was his name, he had kept plastic sheets under the bed. “I see,” he finally said, taking Anna’s hands away from him. Now or never.
“You’ve been so depressed the last few months,” Carly added, finally finding the courage to speak. “What with the last seven years of your life culminating in what you realized was complete failure at everything you’ve ever hoped to achieve.”
The temples continued to try to push whatever was trying to massacre his brain right through the actual skull. “I wouldn’t go that far…” But at least it was a little easier to breath. His hands dug through his pockets for cigarettes, ibuprofen, or the miracle of both.
“You said it like seven times yesterday morning.”
“I’m sure it wasn’t seven, Carly.” he replied, dimly wondering if they were getting too far off topic. After barely swallowing seven ibuprofens, he lit a cigarette. It was then he realized he didn’t have shoes or socks.
“It was seven,” confirmed Dominique.
“We were just trying to help,” Anna said.
“It was just kind of a why-not-kill-two-birds-with-one-stone thing that no one wanted to drive you to the hospital.”
“And I mean, your birthday,” Casper started, “All we did was take mushrooms and go to Six Flags.”
“Which we were gonna do anyway,” Campbell said. “And we just kinda felt bad about that.”
“And it’s not like your life is going to get any better,” Casper continued.
“Boom,” Dominique said, holding up her hands, “Viking funeral.”
He suddenly remembered a conversation with Kieran from a month ago. Condescending was his natural language, the natural language of older siblings, and he had always felt that people who kept anything or anyone around for more than five years was clinging to the past. Ian couldn’t wait for Kieran’s fifth wedding anniversary, which was less than a year away. “I don’t get it,” he said, trying to claw his way back into the present. “I don’t understand.”
Campbell and Casper both came forward, but Campbell was the one who put an arm around him. “Come on,” he said. “Let’s get inside, have a beer and some of those toquitos, and we’ll try to explain everything again.”
Ian let Campbell move him along. Each step meant crushing twigs and small rocks under his feet. It wasn’t something he could ever see himself getting used to.
“We’re glad you’re alive,” Anna told him.
“History’s important,” Dominique concurred.
Kieran didn’t have a very high opinion of these people. Ian had made the mistake of asking him about things like ruts and the value of consistency in a friendship. The argument that quickly took over the conversation focused a lot of its time and energy on the shitty people who were making it easy to make it to 30, and have nothing to show for it. Ian could remember now that he had argued that they were still his friends, that history was important, and that he was a long ways off from 30 anyway. Kieran dismissed those reasons, and then apologized later without actually saying anything that someone would normally include in an apology.
Campbell sat him down on a stool at the kitchen’s island. He brought him a beer and a plate of toquitos a moment later. Anna sat at the stool next to him, and everyone broke off into watching TV, dicking around with their phones, or fixing drinks. Dominique announced she was going to bed, and disappeared up the stairs.
He could remember the drive up here now. Sitting in the back, listening to Anna and Dominique argue about whether or not Casper was doing coke again. His headphones had stopped working again, so their banter was the only thing available to pass the long drive, deeper and deeper into the kind of middle of nowhere that some people were spiritual about. The house was located in a small gated community, and the best part about the long drive over was how the trees became bigger, older, more frightening in the arrangement of their branches. And the longer the drive went on, the more of them there were.
He could remember thinking about that when they were heading up this way, as he always did, but almost everything after that was still a stack of shredded abstract paintings. No point, he thought, washing down a toquitos with a small sip of beer, about half of the original migraine gone, in getting frustrated. Nothing was going to change for now. It was best to just stay calm and feel better.
Casper wondered aloud how many more days they were going to stick around.
Campbell wanted to put in a couple more days, but he added that he wanted to wait until Dominique got up from her nap. Then they would put it to a vote.
I hope you enjoyed the fiction. Get books by Gabriel Ricard. Bondage Night, a romance that dares to tell the whole sordid truth about happily ever after, and Love and Quarters, because the world is a badly run 1890's-style asylum, but at least there's a lot of good stuff on TV.
A savage, unreasonable love story for savage, unreasonable times.
Bondage Night chronicles the vicious climax of a chaotic, intense, compulsion-driven love affair between two unhappy, delusional people.
Gabriel Ricard's debut novel shows what brought them together in the first place.
Then comes the surreal, exhausted aftermath.
Through it all, the protagonists persevere.
But by the time it finally ends, Leo and Laura may never be the same.
*Bondage Night will be available on Valentine's Day and will ship a few days after that.
Gabriel Ricard’s 2nd poetry book is about coming to terms with the good, the bad, and the reliably hideous. The world is a badly run 1890s-style asylum, but at least there’s a lot of good stuff on TV. Love and Quarters goes deep into love, depression, high adventures in the great outdoors, and whatever the hell else may happen while in transit.